The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley

I came across this novel whilst browsing a little hidden away bookshop in Hexham full of lovely thick books. I had no real intention of buying anything, I was more than happy to just casually browse the shelves. By chance, I caught site of the words ‘The Last Wolf’ and I instantly reached for this slender black book. On reading the blurb, I knew this was the perfect book for me.

Jim Crumley discusses the controversial issue of wolf reintroduction, focusing on his homeland of Scotland. The wolf has been the victim of black propaganda labelling it as the slayer of children, a graverobber and the evil creature of folklore but Crumley argues that these stories are works of fiction or extreme exaggerations of the truth that have been distorted over time but unfortunately these stereotypes prevent people from thinking rationally about the reintroduction of wolves. The elimination of the top predator in Scotland has caused an imbalance in the natural order of the ecosystem – red deer numbers have risen dramatically and the deer have become idle and move around less. This has resulted in serious overgrazing across the landscapes of Scotland which has had a knock on effect on the flora and fauna of Scotland.

In this novel, Crumley pursues the supposed myth of the ‘Last Wolf’ in Scotland dismissing it as just that – a myth full of clichés.  As well as this, Crumley also explores the success of reintroduction programmes in Norway and Yellowstone, focusing particularly on their successes which could be recreated in Scotland. One key thing to note about this novel is Crumley’s aversion from simply putting the wolf in a big cage like the Lister Project which he basically sees as a big zoo – that is not what wolf reintroduction should be trying to achieve. False wildness is not the solution.

All in all, the core of this novel is understanding the issues surrounding the controversy around wolf reintroduction but Crumley firmly takes the stance that wolf reintroduction could be possible in Scotland if carefully managed in places like Rannoch Moor, where Scotland may become truly wild once again.

There are few occasions where I come across a book where I will profusely say it’s a must read – well this novel is one of them. Witty, informed and wonderfully passionate, this book fed the hungry wolf inside of me that longs to study wolves in the wild and help to reintroduce wolves in Scotland and across Europe. It will make you laugh and yet the gravity of the situation he discusses will deeply affect you. This book is powerful and fascinating and I have to say the message of the novel struck home all the more considering I read it whilst in Scotland. I was wandering through some of the wild landscapes Crumley was discussing and could envisage wolves returning to such locations. Full to the brim with wonderful landscape descriptions and potent writing, this really is a must read.

Roger Hutchinson commented:

‘Jim Crumley’s task is to persuade the human beings of the Highlands that all of our lives would be richer in the presence of wolves. It is, as he acknowledges, a difficult task. If everybody in Scotland was to read ‘The Last Wolf’ it would become immeasurably easier,’

Here are a few poignant quotes from the novel:

‘It is one of the great ironies of the evolution of our species that long before we began to think in terms of exterminating the wolf, we spent a great many centuries learning to be more wolf-like’

(about Red Riding Hood) ‘The story lives on as a salutary warning to children to not to talk to strangers, but draws no morals from the idea that the child is incapable of telling the difference between her grandmother and a wolf wearing a bonnet. I blame the parents. But then logic has never played a very prominent part in our relationship with the wolf’

(Quoting Catherine Feher-Elston) ‘In the Navajo Way, people are responsible for taking good care of their livestock. If a wolf takes a sheep, it is not the fault of the wolf. The wolf is only behaving like a wolf. The shepherd is the guilty one – for not paying close attention and protecting the flock’

‘We are not wise enough to understand what in nature, if anything, is expendable’

‘His arguments were based solely on the interests of people. And are we really willing to tolerate wilderness only if it is populated by creatures with which people can feel comfortable?’

‘We cannot rationalise every decision we make as a species on the basis of whether or not it is good for the economy; sometimes the greater good of planet earth must come first, and the wolf, as the master-manipulator of  northern hemisphere ecosystems, is an agent for the greater good’

There are many, many more good quotes, these are but a select few. I’d recommend reading the novel to fully appreciate the magnitude of what is discussed.

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One thought on “The Last Wolf by Jim Crumley

  1. Pingback: Wolf by Garry Marvin | Blurb

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